Dad blames RAF for decade of delays since Moray Airmen’s Tornado crash

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A father whose son died 10 years ago this week in a mid-air collision with a tornado over the Moray Firth has condemned military leaders for their continued failure to install anti-crash technology on all fast jets in the RAF.

Michael Poole has called it “incomprehensible” that the MoD still hasn’t installed a collision warning system in the successor plane to the Tornado.

He fears others will suffer the pain his family suffered from failing to learn from the crash that killed his son, Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole.

Squadron Leader Sam Bailey and Flt Lt Adam Sanders also died in the tragedy, while a fourth airman was injured.

Losing Hywel left a huge hole in my heart that will never close.

-Michael Poole

The lives of the RAF’s Lossiemouth-based crew will be remembered on the 10th anniversary of the collision on Sunday July 3.

The flag is flown at half-mast at RAF Lossiemouth air base following the 2012 collision.

Mr Poole described his son, from Wales and aged 28 when he died, as a ‘kind, intelligent, caring and talented pilot’, who was tipped to achieve high rank in the RAF.

“Losing Hywel left a huge hole in my heart that will never close,” he told us ahead of the anniversary.

“What makes it even more difficult to bear is that the accident could have been avoided if a collision warning system had been installed on the Tornado GR4.”

Mr Poole added: “We were told that all lessons would be learned from the accident and action would be taken, but unfortunately that was not the case in relation to the collision warning systems .”


What happened on July 3, 2012?

The two Tornado jets collided in poor weather on July 3, 2012, about seven nautical miles southeast of Helmsdale.

Investigation found 17 contributing factors led to the collision, including failure to install a collision warning system in the aircraft.

Wreckage and debris from RAF Tornado collision in Moray Firth returned to Invergordon

Investigators found that such a system could have saved the lives of crews by giving them an additional 39 seconds to respond with emergency action to avoid the collision.

Mr Poole said: “The Military Aviation Authority’s service investigation into the accident revealed that many factors combined to bring about the collision, but in my opinion the absence of a collig’s system was the most important.”


Delays and Cancellations

Plans to use the technology in Torando jets date back to 1998, but the program has been controversial with a series of delays, cancellations and postponements.

The RAF retired Tornado aircraft out of service in 2019 and replaced them with Typhoon and F-35 jets.

RAF Lossiemouth is currently home to four Typhoon squadrons.

Flight Lieutenant Hywel Poole, Squadron Leader Samuel Bailey and Flight Lieutenant Adam Sanders.

Air Marshal Richard Garwood, who was director general of the Military Aviation Authority at the time, said the failure to install warning systems in Typhoon and F-35 jets was an “untenable position”.

In 2015, the RAF was again asked by the authority to install a warning system on Typhoon in all haste “.

Still no collision warning system

A decade after the Tornado collision, the technology has still not been deployed on the RAF’s current generation of fast jets.

The Ministry of Defense said earlier this year that tests were underway on an “enhanced collision detection system” for Typhoon.

Mr Poole said he had recently been advised by the military that Typhoons currently in service were not to be fitted with a collision warning system until next year.

Air ground crew work on Tornado aircraft at RAF Lossiemouth, after the 2012 collision.

He added that the F-35 Lightning does not have a warning system, nor does the Hawk which is used to train pilots of fast jets.

“Standard in cars”

“At a time when many cars on the road are fitted with collision warning systems as standard, it is incomprehensible to me that the Ministry of Defense finds it acceptable to send young men and women to fly fast jets at hundreds of kilometers per hour without life-saving safety technology,” he said.

“It is impossible to be certain that he would have avoided the accident of July 3, 2012, but it is quite possible that he did.

“I just hope no other family ever has to go through the pain my family has gone through, but I fear it will happen again unless all possible safety equipment is installed on all military fast jets. “

Retired RAF officer Jimmy Jones led a long campaign for a Fatal Accident Investigation (FAI) into the 2012 tragedy, helping to secure a change in the law to ensure such an investigation is now mandatory for military deaths in Scotland.

However, the law has not been applied retrospectively to historic deaths.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC

Last year, Mr Poole wrote to newly appointed Scottish Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC to lend his support to calls for an FAI in the Tornado collision.

But in February this year, Ms Bain became the third Lord Advocate to rule out a new inquiry.

RAF says safety is top priority

An RAF spokesman said: ‘Our thoughts remain with Hywel’s family and friends on the 10th anniversary of his tragic death.

“Safety remains our number one priority. Our F-35s are equipped with advanced situational awareness systems that allow them to operate safely and we are currently testing a collision detection system on our Typhoons.

It is understood the UK is working with the US to develop an automated “air collision avoidance system” for the F-35, which already has “advanced situational awareness”.

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[Dad blasts RAF for decade of delays since Moray airmen’s Tornado crash]

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